I need some ideas for my Advent calendar - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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A few years ago my mom bought me a gorgeous advent calendar from Pottery Barn. It has pockets, and is very similar to this one.

I finally have a place to hang it this year, so I need to start coming up with ideas for the pockets and collecting materials. I'd love to have a mix of things. Some days will have slips of paper with Christmas experiences, like a promise to make a craft, go looking at lights, things like that. Other pockets I'd like to fill with something fun for them. DS1 is 4.5, and DS2 will be 2 a few days before Christmas.

I'd love some brainstorming help!

I know it is early still to think about Christmas, but I'm super excited about this year. We have had crazy holidays the past 2 years, and this year will finally be spent in our home and will be just us. I get to decorate for the first time in a couple of years and I'm getting excited.
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#2 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 10:55 AM
 
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Nice! Last year I made my own Advent calendar. Each day was a different thing to do. Sometimes it was a Christmassy activity, sometimes it was a treat or small present. I found that it was easiest to only fill the pockets a few days at a time so that I could better judge what activity would work on what given day. Sometimes I used things that we would already be doing anyway on that day (going to dd's xmas concert, etc). I saved the little treats and presents for days I didn't feel up to a Christmas craft, lol. You also may find that as it gets closer to Christmas you'll find different activities being put on in your neighbourhood or town. For example last year we went to an ornament-making craft day at a local museum.

General ideas:

- make Christmas tree decorations (look online for lots of great ideas)
- make Christmas decorations for the house (again you'll find ideas online)
- go for hot chocolate
- go Christmas-light sight seeing
- Christmas shopping for a special present
- making presents or cards
- visit Santa Claus (at the mall or whatever)
- watch a Christmas movie
- go sledding or skating (weather permitting)
- sing Christmas carols
- buy the Christmas tree (if you do a real one)
- decorate the Christmas tree

Again, I can't emphasize enough how helpful it was to fill the pockets one by one or a few at a time so that you can better fit the activities in with what's already going on in your life (if you come down with a terrible cold, that's not going to be the day to do a big hands-on craft, iykwim).

Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#3 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 11:04 AM
 
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I am already thinking about Christmas, too!

Some of the things we did last year:

*Scratch-off lottery tickets (as it is important to teach your children to gamble at an early age)

*Visit the train museum (decorated for Xmas)

*See the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

*Make indoor snowscapes with shaving cream

*Make Christmas presents for the neighbors and deliver them

*Get and decorate the Christmas tree

*Go ice skating

*Visit the local conservatory to see their Christmas flower display

*Watch Christmas shows on TV (like Frosty and Rudolph)

Here are pics of everything on our blog.

This year, I want to make a snowstorm. And do Christmas cookies. And visit the Macy's Holiday display if it is still up this year (this might be unique to Minneapolis as the tradition came from a local department store chain that Macy's bought a few years back).

I can't wait to hear other ideas!

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#4 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 11:16 AM
 
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We did an activity based Advent calendar last year.

Some of our activities were a Borax pipe cleaner snowflake (it made cool crystals and is still hanging in our window)

Pumpkin pie scented homemade play dough

Decorating the tree

Hot chocolate at Starbucks date with Mom

We planted an amaryllis bulb

Christmas countdown paper chain

Gingerbread house

Christmas cookies

We made this cool artsy/icy thingy http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/winte...atcher-671726/

We made online snowflakes http://snowflakes.barkleyus.com/

We made marblized paper using shaving cream and food coloring. Turned out beautifully and could be used to wrap small presents.

to make the marbled paper you need white paper, shaving cream, food coloring, a shallow pan that is at least as big as the paper you want to marble and a little hand-held squeegee.
You squirt enough shaving cream into the pan to make a layer about half an inch thick. spread it smooth and even with the back of a spoon. Squeeze drops of food coloring randomly all over the shaving cream. Then take a pencil or a toothpick and drag it through the drops in a spiral, swirling motion until you like the way it looks. Don't mix it up too much or the individual colors won't be distinct and it will just look muddy. When you are happy with the look of it put you paper down on top of it and pat it lightly making sure that all parts of the paper come into contact with the shaving cream/food coloring. Pick it up and lay flat on a smooth hard surface that food coloring won't ruin. Take the squeegee and scrape off all of the shaving cream. The food color design will stay on. Don't worry if every tiny bit of shaving cream doesn't come off, when it dries it comes off easily. I thought that the smell of the shaving cream would be overpowering but it wasn't. It smells slightly of it but not bad at all. We've already decided that we want to make Valentine's Day cards using only red food coloring.

We watched Christmas specials one night

Took a moonlight walk (I *think* it was a full moon but don't quote me on that)

We had homemade pizza night and ate while listening to Christmas music

We attended (and the boys performed in) a Christmas piano recital

We visited a local landmark that was all decorated for Christmas

They wrote, directed and performed a little Christmas "play" for their stuffed monkeys

There was more but those are the ones that I remember.
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#5 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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*Scratch-off lottery tickets (as it is important to teach your children to gamble at an early age)
Yeah, I usually put a couple in ds's St Nicholas' Day stocking (Dec 6th). He won $100 one time!

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#6 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 12:33 PM
 
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I like the Waldorf concept of celebrating and recognizing the natural world. Each week another "kingdom" is incorporated in the Advent calendar using an element from that kingdom:

First week: Mineral world (e.g. fill an advent pocket with crystal beads to string a bracelet)

Second week: Plant kingdom (e.g. do some acorn or pinecone crafts or plant some bulbs to flower indoors)

Third week: Animal kingdom (e.g. use feathers or shells for crafts)

Fourth week: Human kingdom (e.g. gingerbread men, a doll or figurine etc.)

Even if you aren't particularly Waldorf-ian in education (like me), it's a lovely way to pay tribute to the natural world at this time of year.
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#7 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 12:39 PM
 
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We celebrate Yule and Christmas, so our advent calendar is pretty open.

The biggest hit last year were the temporary tattoos, and they fit nicely into the pockets. We did some holiday-themed ones and some fairy ones, and both went over well.
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#8 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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LOVING all of these ideas and tips! Thank you!!!
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#9 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 10:25 PM
 
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Looking for ideas myself as we have an advent house that has only been on display for the past couple of years and never really been put to use!

One happy mama to 1/06 , 3/10 , and married to my best friend
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#10 of 27 Old 10-17-2010, 10:35 PM
 
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I haven't read any replies. Some of the things we did last year (no gifts - just activities) were:

Movie nights (Christmas movies only, of course)
Getting the tree
Decorating the tree
Christmas baking (in two batches - might be three this year)
The Stanley Park Christmas train (big Vancouver Christmas thing - we'll do a different one this year)
Looking at lights - two different days, one on foot, right around our own neighbourhood, and driving to some of the slightly farther out "WOW!" homes another night.
Decorating a gingerbread house
Making pinecone birdfeeders (the day before Solstice)
Going for a nature walk and hanging the birdfeeders (on Solstice)
Hanging/decorating our paper tree (a tree I cut out of poster board a few years ago, and we put a few new decorations - made by the kids - on each year)
Make a gift for the grandparents (last year was ribbon-filled glass ornaments, with glitter paint designs on the outside)

I know there were a few other things, but I can't remember what they all were. I need to start thinking about this year. I try to fit in a few things that ds1 can join us for, and things that work around his schedule (eg. the night he does his school choir concert - I try to bake Nanaimo bars the night before, so that I have them ready for the bake sale), etc. The logistics get a bit complicated sometimes.

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#11 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 12:06 AM
 
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Originally Posted by pianojazzgirl View Post
Nice! Last year I made my own Advent calendar. Each day was a different thing to do. Sometimes it was a Christmassy activity, sometimes it was a treat or small present. I found that it was easiest to only fill the pockets a few days at a time so that I could better judge what activity would work on what given day. Sometimes I used things that we would already be doing anyway on that day (going to dd's xmas concert, etc). I saved the little treats and presents for days I didn't feel up to a Christmas craft, lol. You also may find that as it gets closer to Christmas you'll find different activities being put on in your neighbourhood or town. For example last year we went to an ornament-making craft day at a local museum.

<snip>

Again, I can't emphasize enough how helpful it was to fill the pockets one by one or a few at a time so that you can better fit the activities in with what's already going on in your life (if you come down with a terrible cold, that's not going to be the day to do a big hands-on craft, iykwim).
This is a good idea. I actually filled all the pockets at once, but kept a master list of what was on each day. That way, I could switch out the slips of paper after the kids went to bed, if I realized something would work better on a different day than the one on my original schedule.



ETA: I don't want anyone to think "master list" indicates any great degree of organization, either. It was a sheet of loose leaf, from ds1's school supplies, that sat on my desk and also served as a place to jot recipe notes and addresses for mailing Christmas cards and such.

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#12 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 12:26 AM
 
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We've done activity advent calendars for the past couple of years. My list is in with all of my Christmas stuff, so I can't pull it up at the moment, but from memory:

Decorate the tree and house

Make a new ornament

Buy a new ornament

Make paper snowflakes for the windows

Make pinecone bird feeders

Go for a nature walk and pick up interesting objects

Use interesting objects to make an ice ornament (arrange stuff in an aluminum pie plate, drape a string through, add water, and freeze. Hang outside when frozen and watch it slowly melt if warm, last forever if cold)

Make snow globes

Grow crystals on a tiny cardboard tree with bluing and ammonia

Several movie nights, as DH owns every single lame Christmas special that exists

Attend "The Nutcracker" ballet

Attend Handel's "Messiah" singalong

I cheated and included the several Christmas parties and fairs we attended as activities

Ice skating

Make a gingerbread house

Visit the big gingerbread house display at a local church

Attend the handful of Christmas-tree displays and raffles and scavenger hunts around the area

Make peppermint-stick ice cream

Bake cookies

Good luck; it was a lot of work to think of and implement activities, but the kids were so excited every day that they woke up and got to check for the day's activity. I'm hoping to keep the whole season magical, instead of all focused on the single day. Thanks for new ideas; I'll be checking in here for help with this year's events!
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#13 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 12:30 AM
 
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LaLaLaLa: How did you make the snow globes? That sounds like a fun craft. I'm still trying to think of a new gift for the grandparents, too.

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#14 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 12:45 AM
 
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Storm Bride--Snow globes are fun! You need some sort of empty jar. Plastic peanut butter if you're nervous about dropping it, large glass if you're ambitious, small glass (baby food jars work well) if you're nervous about filling space....

Anyway, choose a jar of some sort and clean it out. You can use a glue gun to glue something permanent to the inside of the lid if you want; I've seen advice to hot-glue a small (soda bottle?) cap to the inside of the lid, like a little stage, then glue a Christmasy object, like a little plastic tree or something, onto that stage so it will be visible inside the jar once you screw the lid back on.

Turn your empty jar upright and fill with sequins, glitter, beads, googly eyes, etc. Beads are a little heavy to float around, but glitter and holiday-themed sequins do well. Googly eyes don't sink and are a little creepy.

When you have as much stuff as you want, fill the jar with mineral oil. Water doesn't allow things to float as well as oil does; oil is a bit more viscous. I think in college my roommate, who was a total craft nerd like I was, used a combination of corn syrup and water--there are recipes on the internet. It was sticky and messy, though, so I prefer the straight oil. Different combinations change the floatability, of course. Good science investigation for future years, but for now my kids just want them done as soon as possible.

I then put superglue around the threads of the jar lid before screwing on the top, then put aquarium glue around the edge of that. Then I glue a festive ribbon around the lid to make it a bit prettier. I let them sit overnight before flipping them over. I was paranoid the first year about leaking, even with all of the glue, but our first globes held up for two years without a single leak, so I'm less nervous now.
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#15 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 02:39 AM
 
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We celebrate Yule and Christmas, so our advent calendar is pretty open.
In fact, our "advent" calendar is this.

I did some research the first year and tried to tie our activities to historic significance wherever possible. But I tried to leave them somewhat open so that we can celebrate the sentiment no matter what the schedule by altering the actual activity. My activities look like this:

December 1 - Today belongs to Poseidon, the Greek god of oceans and seas--the god of rebirth. Find a way to honor Poseidon. (it can be making a toast with water in champagne glasses or eating seafood or letting the goldfish join us for dinner by setting his bowl on the table--depends on what we're up for)

December 2 - Do a holiday craft

December 3 - Today is the Roman festival of Bona Dea, the patroness of women. Tell and listen to stories about women in our family.

December 4 - Choose an item to give away to someone in need. (the first year we did this, our son was 4yo and the activity was "Learn how to say grace before dinner")

December 5 - Tell each person in the house why they are special.

December 6 - Tonight St. Nicholas sneaks into houses to see which children are being honest and helpful. Put your shoes by the front door and in the morning check to see if he has rewarded you.

December 7 - Do something nice to help the family.

December 8 - Tell someone that you are sorry for something you did.

December 9 - Make something with apples... to eat or a craft.

December 10 - Don't eat fish today. Make a toast with water to all of the water creatures who have fed you in the last year. (This is tied to some ancient significance, but I can't remember what)

December 11 - Take a nature walk--even if it's cold!

December 12 - Decorate the house for the season.

December 13 - Feast of St. Lucia--eat a special breakfast of sunny-side up eggs and orange juice; and light some candles.... and celebrate Demeter with a dinner of vegetables.

December 14 - From today until the New Year, each time you are mean or use unkind words you will put a dime in the cup. At the New Year, the money will be donated to someone in need.

December 15 - Oak Moon - Read "The Shortest Day" in preparation for Solstice.

December 16 - Play a game together.

December 17 - Saturnalia - invite people over and the children pick the menu! (If it's not a night that's conducive to inviting people over, we just let the kids choose what we eat for dinner)

December 18 - Sing songs together.

December 19 - Bake something together.

December 20 - The men have to cook and clean today.

December 21 - Winter Solstice - Light all the candles and lights to fight off the darkness and bring back the sun. Dress in yellow, orange or red--sunny colors.

December 22 - Children's Day! Have lots of fun!

December 23 - Cleaning Day... for home and spirit.

December 24 - Light white candles and remember people who have passed away.

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#16 of 27 Old 10-18-2010, 01:51 PM
 
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Storm Bride--Snow globes are fun! You need some sort of empty jar. Plastic peanut butter if you're nervous about dropping it, large glass if you're ambitious, small glass (baby food jars work well) if you're nervous about filling space....

Anyway, choose a jar of some sort and clean it out. You can use a glue gun to glue something permanent to the inside of the lid if you want; I've seen advice to hot-glue a small (soda bottle?) cap to the inside of the lid, like a little stage, then glue a Christmasy object, like a little plastic tree or something, onto that stage so it will be visible inside the jar once you screw the lid back on.

Turn your empty jar upright and fill with sequins, glitter, beads, googly eyes, etc. Beads are a little heavy to float around, but glitter and holiday-themed sequins do well. Googly eyes don't sink and are a little creepy.

When you have as much stuff as you want, fill the jar with mineral oil. Water doesn't allow things to float as well as oil does; oil is a bit more viscous. I think in college my roommate, who was a total craft nerd like I was, used a combination of corn syrup and water--there are recipes on the internet. It was sticky and messy, though, so I prefer the straight oil. Different combinations change the floatability, of course. Good science investigation for future years, but for now my kids just want them done as soon as possible.

I then put superglue around the threads of the jar lid before screwing on the top, then put aquarium glue around the edge of that. Then I glue a festive ribbon around the lid to make it a bit prettier. I let them sit overnight before flipping them over. I was paranoid the first year about leaking, even with all of the glue, but our first globes held up for two years without a single leak, so I'm less nervous now.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is brilliant. I think I may have found this year's grandparent gifts!

Awesome...

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Loving my amazing dh, James & forever missing ribbonpb.gif Aaron Ambrose ribboncesarean.gif (11/07) ribbonpb.gif

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#17 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 01:05 PM
 
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Great thread! I've been thinking about doing an advent calendar for DD this year. She'll be turning 3 at the end of Nov, so I think she'll be getting into the build-up to Xmas this year, which she was still a little young for last year.

I want to do a calendar that had mostly crafts/activities (though at least one activity is going to be a scavenger hunt to a small gift). One thing I want to do that I've been wanting to try for years is go to a local botanical garden that does a major light installation every year. I think DD would really enjoy it, even if I have to take her by myself (DH's family never did holidays like mine did, so he just doesn't have much interest in it).

I imagine the children's museum in town will have some sort of activity, and there are two others within an hours drive that will also probably do something, so there's a couple of things right there.

I love the snow globe idea, and those dental floss snowflake decorations - DD really likes stickers, so they'd be perfect!

I imagine we'd do at least one movie night, and the pine cone bird feeders are always fun. I want to try to stay away from too much baking, but we'll probably do at least one batch of decorated sugar cookies.

The other thing I have to consider is that we often go to my parents during the holidays, so if we do that before Xmas this year, there will have to be things we can do down there (not that that should be a problem, they live in a more metropolitan area, so will likely have even more things to choose from).

So... I guess I didn't have anything new to add, but I sure appreciate hearing everyone else's suggestions! If I do come across anything new & interesting, I will be sure to post back.
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#18 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 01:56 PM
 
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Googly eyes don't sink and are a little creepy.


I second the mineral oil recommendation over the corn syrup and water - my girl scout troop used a corn syrup recipe, and the water became cloudy after a week (probably growing bacteria... ewwww).

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Originally Posted by LaLaLaLa View Post
I cheated and included the several Christmas parties and fairs we attended as activities

Make peppermint-stick ice cream
Christmas parties aren't cheating!

We are totally doing the ice cream - how fun! As long as I can find the parts to the ice cream-making attachment I desperately wanted for our wedding and never use.

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#19 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 02:12 PM
 
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This thread is so awesome. You have all inspired me to start thinking like a real mother, and less like an overworked, tired babysitter.

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#20 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 02:26 PM
 
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I haven't read the other replies yet, so I may be repeating some things. I made our family's Advent calendar 3yrs ago. Our pockets get filled w/ a slip of paper that either lists an activity or a small gift they receive that day. Here's what's on our list:

~Tree Cutting Today!!
~Decorate the Tree
~handknit hat
~slippers (these are handmade by me)
~read Room for a Little One
~read You Are My Miracle
~read This is the Stable
~make pinecone bird feeders
~Christmas Cantada (this is out church's Christmas program)
~town's Village Parade
~put up nativity
~new nativity pieces
~hang stockings
~paint salt dough ornaments
~bake cookies
~Christmas Eve service
~Christmas Eve at MeMa's
~watch a Christmas movie w/ popcorn & hot chocolate
~Decorate outside
~drive around and look at Christmas lights
~make wrapping paper
~wrap presents
~make Gingerbread House
~make candle holders for family members

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#21 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 06:51 PM
 
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Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is brilliant. I think I may have found this year's grandparent gifts!

Awesome...
I was just thinking the same thing!!!! LOVE this idea!

One happy mama to 1/06 , 3/10 , and married to my best friend
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#22 of 27 Old 11-05-2010, 09:09 PM
 
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I just found this page on about & figured I would post it, in case anyone else is still nailing down their schedule. I haven't read through all the days yet, but it looks like they have a few options for each.

Advent calendar ideas
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#23 of 27 Old 11-06-2010, 08:54 AM
 
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I know that this post was originally about activities and treats to fill a traditional advent calendar, but I wanted to share our advent plan for this year.

I gathered up 24 of our Christmas or winter themed books (I had to scour the thrift stores and request a couple from paperback swap to reach 24) and wrapped each one in holiday paper. I'm going to number them 1-24 and let DS unwrap a book every night at bedtime that we can read before bed. I've saved 'The Night Before Christmas' for the last night.

Now...can anyone tell me where I can get some cute tags to number the books with?
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#24 of 27 Old 11-11-2010, 12:13 PM
 
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I am planning on doing an advent calander this year, so notes.gif


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#25 of 27 Old 11-13-2010, 11:12 PM
 
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Cool thread! I was planning to make an Advent calender (probably a fabric-type one, if I can get my sewing machine fixed)... I was just going to do chocolates, but activities is a much better idea! Well... activities and chocolates, of course. :p

 

My list includes the Christmas events around town (a non-Christmas-related but fun fair, the Christmas parade and a church display/carols/pat the donkeys thing)... berry picking... making Christmas cards (over several days), baking the Christmas cake, watching a Christmas movie and so on.


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#26 of 27 Old 11-14-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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notes.gif   Thinking of redoing my own list to incorporate some of the new stuff.  :)

 

And actually, I'm going to get really ambitious and try to make a set of stories for each month based on a theme.  :D  If that's overwhelming, I'm going to try for 1 full week devoted to the holiday of the month and 1 full week to a character trait (a single one that will get all the focus for that week).


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#27 of 27 Old 11-23-2010, 08:00 AM
 
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I so appreciate all the great ideas on this thread! I am going to start one this year for my son and I am really looking forward to it.

I found a couple other great ideas I wanted to share. One was sending e-cards to relatives and friends. I loved this because it was free and my son always likes getting those jib jab cards or other cool emails that come to me but I know he will love. I really think he will like making one of these.

The other idea was frozen ice ornaments. Basically you get a tin foil pie pan.  Fill it with little objects and then place a string in the pan. Fill it with water and freeze. Remove it from the pan and hang it outside to either melt slowly or stay frozen depending on where you live.

Here's the link to the instructions if it works

http://www.bukisa.com/articles/194213_how-to-make-sparkling-winter-ice-ornaments

 

I did the re-wrapping of the Christmas books last year. That was fun too - it was cute to re-read all the little baby books from years ago!

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